PREP FOOTBALL: John Hardin's Elam receives offer from Notre Dame (6/12)

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By Chuck Jones

John Hardin senior Matt Elam hadn’t heard much from the Notre Dame coaching staff, but when they joined in sweepstakes for the defensive tackle’s services, it made an enormous impression on him.

John Hardin coach Chad Lewis said Notre Dame assistant coach Bob Elliott offered Elam a scholarship Tuesday. Elam, who was at a two-day camp at the University of Kentucky, was caught off guard by the Fighting Irish.

“It kind of surprised me,” said Elam, who was traveling home from the camp. “It’s crazy. They wasted no time. I guess they figured it’s getting close to crunch time, so they wanted to show they were serious.”

Even Lewis was shocked when he talked to Elliott, the Notre Dame safeties coach.

“That was a huge surprise,” Lewis said. “We hadn’t heard a lot from Notre Dame and Ohio State, but since he showed out at the Alabama camp, everyone’s started calling.”

Ohio State offered Elam last week. The 6-foot-5, 340-pound lineman, who received an invitation to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, has received offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Alabama, Indiana, Purdue, Western Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky. Cincinnati, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Vanderbilt also have been in the mix.

Elam lists his top five – in alphabetical order – as Alabama, Kentucky, Louisville, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Elam is intrigued by Notre Dame’s offer. Of course, the Fighting Irish have a storied tradition with 11 national championships, seven Heisman Trophy winners and 97 consensus All-Americans. They are coming off a 12-1 season, which ended with a 42-14 loss to Alabama in the Bowl Championship Series national championship game.

“I’ll probably go there for a visit,” Elam said. “I know it’s a great program with a rich tradition. They were in the national championship game last year. I hope to learn more about them. I want to learn more about the coaching staff.”

It’s been a crazy last couple of weeks for Elam. At the Alabama camp, Elam reportedly was among the stars of camp in Tuscaloosa. He dominated at the camp according to an ESPN.com report and Alabama assistant coaches Kirby Smart and Lance Thompson went as far as to say he was the best defensive line prospect Alabama’s had at camp in the past few years.

“He was going up against players as big and as strong as or stronger than him, and in the one-on-one drills, he continually dominated,” Lewis said. “I’m used to seeing him do that, but he was still able to do that against guys his own size that were three- and four-star recruits. That’s when you realize he has special talent and special ability.”

Since the camp at Alabama, Elam has been to Louisville and Kentucky. He said he can’t say enough about the Cardinals’ coaching staff, while the entire Kentucky coaching staff made a passionate plea during a recent phone prior to Elam going to Lexington for a camp of the school’s top prospects.

According to 247Sports, Elam is the second best player in the state behind only four-star quarterback Drew Barker, who committed to Kentucky. Elam is a four-star recruit according to Scout.com, while Rivals.com lists him as a three-star prospect.

Elam said recently he will make his college choice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which will be held Jan. 4, 2014, at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

“All this has been crazy,” Elam said. “I’m not going to rush anything. I am going to just wait this thing out. I would never think all this could have happened.”

Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or cjones@thenewsenterprise.com.